tv Killing the Messenger The Deadly Cost of News Al Jazeera June 11, 2014 3:00pm-4:01pm EDT
on around the world from people who the public don't really know very much about. politicians and society tends to be rather cynical about journalism. but i see enormous bravery, enormous challenge, great courage going on to surface things that the public really needs to know about. >> journalists go towards danger when others move away. journalists have to get involved with all sides of the conflict in order to get the story.
>> i came here in 2003, i came to cover the us-led invasion, i got here about three weeks before the bombing campaign started. and i stayed for the next couple of years working on and off. i came because i thought the war was going to be covered pretty heavily in the western media from the position of embedded journalists. you know, if i was going to take any risk at all, i'd rather take the risk making a story that
wasn't being told. and i was concerned that the iraqi perspective would be neglected. so i came and st- stayed in baghdad and worked in baghdad, instead of working embedded with us military. >> it used to be that you could do a mix of both. i tried to keep it 50/50, so that i saw the war from the soldier's point of view, and i saw the war from the local iraqi's point of view. >> journalists play this vital role as sort of an outside presence, an independent person to sort of see how this war is being conducted.
>> if you want to get to some of these stories, you have to take the risks of the people who are living through the same thing, and sometimes that means risking torture, risking kidnapping, risking death. >> i faced tremendous amount of danger. i was shot at several times. my car still ha-- bears the marks of uh. of bullets. i was chased several times. i got messages, uhm. letters were taped on the outdoor of my house. >> kidnapping was, and is, a very real problem in iraq. criminal gangs, militias are roaming around, finding ways to extort money. this is why we've had doctors, academics, lawyers, a- a whole lot of iraq's intelligencia just flee the country, because they're at grave risk of being kidnapped.
>> you know, as dangerous as it might seem sometimes in a place like that, you know, that's unstable, where the government's really out of control, or there's a lot of uhm. a lot of fighting and insecurity, if you make sort of friends who can show you the way, and give you some support, locally, then it's not as bad as it seems. in fact, i often felt like i was sort of protected by the people around me as best as anyone could be. >> the basic rule is that you are only as good as the local journalist you're working with. they are, by far, the most important decision you'll make. they understand what's happening on the ground in a way you never can. >> if you wanted to be a good journalist in iraq, you had to risk your life.
>> i'm ali velshi, the news has become this thing where you talk to experts about people, and al jazeera has really tried to talk to people, about their stories. we are not meant to be your first choice for entertainment. we are ment to be your first choice for the news. >> you're watching, al jazeera america presents: killing the messenger. >> in the case of iraq, we've seen more of our colleagues locally killed.
they live there. the front line, if you'd like, is- is outside their front door. >> in recent and ongoing conflicts like iraq and afghanistan, the- the highest death toll, if you'd like is indigenous journalists, particularly in the case of iraq. we've lost colleagues who were local journalists, filming alongside or close to insurgents. >> on the battlefield, in the heat of the moment, someone who- who looks different from the model of a foreign correspondent
is even more at risk. because even if he is carrying a camera, even if he is carrying a tripod, the assumption seems to be that they could be hostile. what happened in 2007 to the two reuter's journalists in iraq was a terrible tragedy and one that was brought home to all of us when we saw the footage that wikileaks released. and i think that really brought home the horror of modern war and why it is so dangerous. >> what you had there was apache helicopters firing on a group of people from at least 500 meters away, maybe a couple of kilometers away. you have the assumption that everyone in that group is of a type. you have the assumption that because there were weapons in that group, that
everyone in that group was armed and somehow dangers. uh, and it became just a terrible tragedy that the uh, gunships fired on those people. our correspondents were killed, along with others. >> we need answers to the questions about how these situations happened. we've engaged, and we'll continue to engage very actively with the authorities, because we don't take for granted that people just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. >> they were walking with a group that-- where there were arms. now, in 2007 in baghdad, that was extremely common. everyone was walking around with arms. but it became clear in the course of investigating this, that because they were walking with this group, they were assumed to be hostile.
and so we changed our rules, and said, "don't go anywhere near anybody who is carrying a weapon." now that makes it more difficult to do your job as a journalist, especially in a place where everyone is armed. but we felt it was a necessary precaution to take. >> [audio from the apache helicopter]. we cordoned off the building that the-- and helicopters killed the personnel on. don't go anywhere else, we've cordoned off that building.
changing sides. so a journalist needs a certain level of combat awareness training as well as emergency first-aid. >> as long as people are fighting each other and killing each other, and doing so in the acquisition of power, or territory, or, you know, a point of view, uhm, journalists have to be there. >> we have seen a rise in this culture of impunity in some of the world's most dangerous countries. not, well, we're talking about war zones now, but countries like mexico, where to
kill a journalist is easy censorship. >> so, journalists who make themselves awkward, who do investigative work, who get on the wrong side of a particular crime gangs, or even particular political divisions, make themselves vulnerable. and we've seen that rise inexorably again over the last decade. >> [speaking spanish].
>> unfortunately, in many cases in these regions authorities are corrupted by criminal organizations. the influence of the cartels uh, in many of these areas is huge, over law enforcement, politicians and state prosecutors. and- and in most cases, these people are in charge of investigating these crimes. >> [speaking spanish].
>> there are people who benefit from crime, either drug barons, you know, or- or politicians who- who want to send out very strident signal to people in our profession. they're targeting investigative reporting. they're targeting journalists who get up every morning and- and want to spend time on investigating corruption. >> fear is one of the overriding characteristics affecting journalism in- in mexico. drug cartels uhm, uh, have been basically conducting war against journalists, as well as others in the community.
>> you're watching, al jazeera america presents: killing the messenger. >> al jazeera america presents the system with joe berlinger >> parole >> someone is going to get out and do something heinous it's goanna happen... >> when is enough...enough? >> i'm not sure why you didn't learn from your last incarceration >> some prisoners try to get it right >> i'm trying to go to school and get a nice job >> you're only 22, you can turn this around... >> and some just don't >> he actually told people in the halfway house, that he was amazed that they had given him parole >> the system with joe burlinger only on al jazeera america
check your speed. see how fast your internet can be. switch now and add voice and tv for $34.90. comcast business built for business. you're watching, al jazeera america presents: killing the messenger. >> in pursuing what was not merely my job, but my passion, i exceeded sheer reason on many occasions. so it often happening that in trying to capture the best image or digging up a scoop, i cross the line into danger. in 2006, i received reliable information that several journalists were named on an organized crime hit list because of their reporting on the juarez drug wars.
my source told me, i was on that list. >> i- i was doing some investigation related with these abuses, human right abuses for militaries, but at the same time as these incident happened, the massacre at the rehab center. so i got information that when this is said, that this one big truck with soldiers block the road to help the hit men to be at the rehab center and kill these people. with these two investigations going side-by-side, i start to notice that i have been followed. one day my wife, she go back home, and outside of his minivan, she noticed that another minivan who was following her park just outside of the house. there's two men in the minivan. one of the mens-- one of the men
uh.. take it out his arm and pointed like this. this moment is when you understand that your family, now they are in your danger. we have a- a phrase-- it's quite common among the police officers in mexico. they say that the heart and your stomach is uh.. gives you good advices. so you have to learn to listen them. so you feel that something is wrong. i can't explain it how do you feel or- or when do you feel, but something is- is strange there, so that's when i start to say, "okay, i need to leave." >> intimidation goes the whole scale. and i think you have to look on a case-by- case basis whether
the journalist is simply afraid of losing his livelihood or whether that journalist is afraid of losing a limb, or a family member, or his life. and all these things have happened. all these things are happening. all these things are very much real for people in the journalistic community. >> usually, they call you, they send you a message through some-- even from a journal-- from another journalist, or a friend, or a lawyer. they call you, they say, "hey, you know what? you need to be-- stay out of this area." >> there are indications now that the cartels are trying to influence the information agenda more widespread. the cartels are telling publishers, editors and reporters what they can publish or what they can't publish.
>> the sense of impunity against press is high now. many people who can pay for kill a journalist, maybe some of them not thinking, "i killed a journalist," because it looks like nothing is going to happen. >> i think they have a double purpose. one is to shut up this person, to eliminate this person, uh.. as well as uh.. to send the message to other journalists, "this is going to happen if you don't follow my rules." >> [speaking spanish]. >> the journalists themselves have tried to get the government to pass laws, saying, "you know, crime against a journalist is- is a federal crime."
but this has all been very ineffectual. and so the- the journalists have to be very careful what kind of information they're revealing about the drug cartels. >> [speaking spanish]. >> censorship in mexico is uh.. basically a result of uh.. the threat of violence imposed by the drug cartels, and the failure of the government to provide minimal safety guarantees for uh..
democracy. >> speed. tape 11. . >> having seen the pervasive increase of violent crime and impunity, i could not simply let myself be killed under some lonely street light. in september, 2008 i left mexico with my family. i went to vancouver, canada. i'm still alive, and i'm fortunate for that. but i feel the pain of having fled my country and my profession. i now have a part-time job as a janitor. the only work i could find after 14 months of unemployment. we are alive, out of the crossfire, but having lost so much. you're watching, al jazeera america presents: killing the messenger.
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>> there have been 20 journalists murdered in russia since 2000 when uh. president putin came first to office. and in none of those cases, have those who commissioned the crimes been uh. punished. journalists are targeted for their work, when in the process of reporting, they come to cross uh. powerful interests. >> [speaking russian].
>> the government will not follow-up and investigate these terrible crimes against journalists and so for years these crimes go uninvestigated and unpunished. >> [speaking russian]. >> vladimir putin is an ex-kgb officer, so there's a whole kind of shadowy world of these operatives, some of whom-- many of whom are now linked into business, some of whom have links with organized crime.
>> we can't say that the investigative journalism is extinct. not yet. uhm. but it is an endangered species. >> it only takes one journalist to be beaten or assaulted or murdered for the rest of his colleagues to think, "why am i in this profession? i'm not being well-compensated for this profession. what keeps me going? isn't there an easier way of doing, you know, of making a living?"
real reporting from around the world. this is what we do. al jazeera america. you're watching, al jazeera america presents: killing the messenger. >> [gunshots]. >> [yelling]. >> i think the issue of journalist safety is something which sh- should concern everybody and not just journalists. it should concern everybody who cares about the freedom of speech. >> if you could surface some of the bravery and some of the courage that goes on in order to tell the world what's happening, then i think that, you know, society would respond better to
the business of journalism and what we're trying to do. >> certainly politicians think the media's incredibly powerful. why don't we use some of that power to support those people who need it. uhm. to support the safety of those people who are taking all these risks uhm. by ensuring that there is a penalty more often than not for killing a journalist. >> some have managed to persuade the united nations security council to sign up to article 1738, which- which sends out a very strong signal that you can't murder journalists and hope to get away with it. >> the daniel pearl act was passed, which said that the u.s. government really called on nations to protect journalists and not to allow something like that to happen. however, much like the u.n. resolution, it's a statement of intent. it has no real force.
>> almost everyone i know who does this, has this sense of mission. if you are in a war zone, and see something happen in front of you that shouldn't be happening, and you bring that back to where the policy makers are, and they see that, and they change the policy, you're doing your job. >> i am optimistic. i think that you see spreading around the world this general desire for the rule of law, and for governments that are more accountable to their people. people want information. they want judicial systems that are independent. as that continues, you will see that there will be accountability for people who uhm. abuse journalists and- and less impunity.
>> it's really common, i think, for people to be looking for new sources of information. and i think that that really underscores and puts more importance on journalism, and how great the need is. it's like we need fresh air to breathe. you know, we need it. we know it when it's not there, we suffer from its lack. and we're going to look for it. >> [speaking french].
>> the world is part of a conversation. it's now leaning forward. not only does it want to know about what's going on, it wants to influence the outcome. so the most humble of person anywhere in the world with a- with a handheld telephone can play a part in that conversation, and can influence the outcome.
>> anywhere there are journalists working, i think, is actually good for democracy, good for society, good for the population at large. people need to know, people need to be able to make up their own minds. >> killing of journalists, it's not a question that is directed to journalists. this is a question that is directed to society. >> when we put something on the air that helps someone who had no way to reach the levers of power, that's what the fourth estate is all about. that's why i'm risking my life.
>> this is al jazeera america. i'm tony harris with a look at today's top stories. the first majority leader to lose his seat. erieric cantor defeated in primary. a second city falls in iraq as an al-qaeda splinter group steps up attacks to increase its power. and secretary of defense chuck hagel oh questione